top of page

Visiting the lost Pyramids of Meroe, Sudan

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

January 2023

My travel mantra is simple: life is too short for cliché trips. True to my travel style, I kicked off 2023 with a solo trip to this mystical place in Africa’s third largest country.

Once the largest country on the African continent, today, talk to Sudan conjures up images of brutal dictatorships or comparisons to Egypt; but this country deserves better than that.

As I took a step back in time, pitched a tent to camp under the stars, watched the sunrise over the pyramids, kissed the camels, and shook hands with the kindest shepherds, I was intrigued by how and why few people know of this breathtaking country. Read further for the best things to do on a short trip to this historic country.

Itinerary

Khartoum City.

Sunset, sunrise and overnight camping at the lost pyramids of Meroe.

Sunset Cruise to see the confluence of the Nile River. Market visit.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Flights + Visa

I flew directly with Fly Dubai and landed in Khartoum.


For the visa, you will first to need an entry permit to board through a local agency. I recommend Tumbus Tours in Khartoum. There is a small fee attached to do this entry permit.


Once you land, pay $100 for visa stamp and $60 for passport registration. Carry exact change in cash - and make sure your notes are in pristine condition and preferably older than 2018!

Language

This is an Arabic speaking country - though in the capital city, you will find people being able to converse in English.


Best time to visit

Between November to March is a good, rather mild time to visit the desert.

Currency

Since my trip was short, I carried dollars and exchanged some for local currency - but dollar is accepted. Best to avoid withdrawing cash there.


Hiring a guide vs Independent travel

I always prefer local help, irrespective of whether I am alone or with the husband. In controversial countries, you never know what can go wrong. I would recommend getting in touch with Tumbus Tours


If you are on a strict budget and have the time, by all means, you can travel to the Pyramids independently as the locations are marked on google.


How much time to spend in the country?

If the Meroe pyramids are your main focus, I would suggest 4-5 days. If you want to go further up north, then you can spend close to two weeks.


Where I stayed in Khartoum

In Khartoum city, I stayed at the Acropole Hotel. It was neat, clean sheets, good bathroom with hot water and decent breakfast.

Vegetarian Food

There wasn't a lot in the way of food though it wasn't for the lack of trying from the chefs. You can find salads, falafel, some dry bread, fatteh hummus perhaps and a lot of fries.


Highlights
Khartoum City

My first stop was the Khalifa City Museum. The house belonged to Al Khalifa, who succeeded Mahdi, an Islamic leader, as the leader of the Sudanese uprising in 1891.

Don't miss visiting the mosque right outside the museum as well. It is famous in the city.

Next stop was the Tomb of Mahdi. This place holds a lot of significance to the Sudanese Muslims, it is considered to be a place of pilgrimage for them. You will often find Sufi singers just outside the mosque, dedicating ode to the fundamentalist Islamic leader.

You cannot miss a visit to the Omudurman Market in Khartoum. This souk dates back to the 19th century. I love market visits in Africa, no better way to soak up the hustle and bustle of every day life in a chaotic city.

One of my favorite stops in the city was the roof top view from the Corinthia Hotel. Apparently, this hotel looks like Burj Al Arab and the locals call it Burj Al Fateh. It is the best place in the city of a spectacular sunset view. Much like in Paris, where the Seine river takes in the Marne, Khartoum is a city of two rivers - the white and blue Nile. Both the rivers arrive as equals, and at their confluence, they merge and then for the next 3000 kilometers, they change their name and flow into the Mediterranean sea. Stand in awe of the grandeur of the Nile river, or as it's known in Arabic, bahr-al-nil.

Sunset at the Meroe Pyramids

The drive from Khartoum to Meroe is about 5-6 hours. Start at around 10 a.m. to make it here just by 4 p.m. Prepare for unexpected delays along the way.

Sudan is still home to numerous ancient civilizations. Located just 200kms from the capital Khartoum, Meroe, lies on the easy bank of Nile.

Once an old kingdom of the Meroitic kings, today you will discover pyramids which were lost in what used to be the heart of the Sahara for centuries.

Did you know that there are 220 pyramids in Sudan? Yeah, MUCH more than Egypt or anywhere else in the world. What’s even better? Having the entire place to myself - all for a tiny entrance fee. Such a magical experience this was.

The Kushites built the pyramids around 800 years after the pyramids of Egypt. Clearly they were inspired by the structures in Giza, but these ones are quite different - especially in size and pitch. The largest pyramid here is only about 30m. The tombs were also dug directly into the rock below and the pyramid then erected above; unlike in Egypt, where the tomb is enclosed in the body of the pyramid.

To me the most striking feature was the orange sand at dusk, it added to the allure and mystery of this phenomenal place.

Overnight Camping

One of my favorite things was being able to camp right beside them at night, so I could wake up to watch the sunrise. Cannot beat a starry night sleeping in a tent.

Sunrise at the pyramids and exploring the tombs

In the morning, it was freezing, I took a hike to catch the views of the pyramids. It was nothing short of spectacular. I couldn't help but notice how all the doors face towards the sun - it is always little details like this that make me wonder how people back then figured it all out, but we cannot live in a world without war.

I stood for hours, all bundled up, as the sun rose in the east and slowly showed the way to the pyramids. Mind was blown.

See how some of the structures have their heads chopped off? That’s the work of a treasure hunter who destroyed part of the structure during his quest. Restoration work is happening, but slowly.

I also explored the insides of the tombs, much in Egypt, there are hieroglyphics here too. I have always been enthralled by these details..

There are SO many pyramids, you need to start your day early. Just walk around, look inside, outside and everywhere - so many details that will leave you wanting more.

Southern Cemetery

Just like the northern side of the, there are more pyramids on the other side of the road. Unlike the northern cemetery built for kings and rulers of the Kush dynasty, these smaller structures were built for the people lower in rank.

Naqa and Musawwarat es-Sufra

If you have more time and don't want to watch the sunrise for hours, you can visit the two temples/tombs just a short drive away from the Meroe Pyramids but this does take time to do and it means you will end up spending less time at the pyramids.


Sunset cruise to catch the confluence of the Nile River

One of the most iconic sites in the city is the point where both the white and blue Nile river converge. I took a 2 hour boat ride just before sunset. It's a great way to observe the exact point - more like a muddy watery mix but I still found it very fascinating.

The city itself is pretty wonderful to watch while floating on the river.

My last stop on the trip was to the market to meet the locals and enjoy some of the art and cultural aspects of Sudan.

Final Thoughts

Vastly underrated, intriguing, packed with history and truly off the trodden path. I am constantly saddened to see how people have misguided opinions thanks to media whitewashing which deters them from visiting breathtaking places like this.

Note that this isn’t your average every day bucket list trip. By travelling with locals, I challenge my own preconceptions of places - it leaves me wanting to know more.

There isn’t much tourism here - so if you’re used to comfort, and things going to plan, and on time, this isn’t the place for you. Ready to rough it out without fresh veggie food? Curious to know about the history? In awe of the vastness of the untouched desert? Ready for a rad adventure? You will love Sudan. I hope me going there will inspire a handful of you to travel to this destination that is often overlooked.

Drop your comments and feel free to ping me on Instagram any time.

Love,

Anki


To explore more African destinations, be sure to check out other blogs for additional insights.

Comments